This Thursday marks the end of the 2020 Legislative Session, and once again Republican donors and special interests made out like bandits while working Floridians were short changed. While Democratic champions fought against efforts to undermine workers’ rights, dismantle our democracy, and destroy Florida’s economy, the Republicans focused on spreading Trump and DeSantis’ divisive and toxic agenda in the State of Florida.
This Legislative session should have been an opportunity to make sure all Floridians could access affordable health care, workers’ rights were protected and help Florida working families. Instead, over the past two months Florida Republicans focused their efforts in passing an extreme and radical agenda that hurt people across the state.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo released the following statement after Sine Die:
“Republicans spent the past two months passing an extreme agenda that doesn’t address, much less solve, the urgent challenges Floridians are facing. They failed to help Floridians by refusing to expand access to health care, ignoring the urgent challenges Floridians are grappling with daily. The Republican Legislature and Gov. DeSantis have taken a page from Donald Trump’s playbook, giving handouts to their donors and special interests while delivering broken promises to the people of Florida.”
Here’s a rundown of how Republicans failed Floridians:
- REPUBLICANS FAILED (ONCE AGAIN) TO EXPAND MEDICAID FOR FLORIDIANS NOW WHEN THEY NEED IT MOST: A bill that would have proposed an amendment to the State constitution to require Medicaid expansion in the state of Florida failed to pass this year under Republican leadership. The bill sponsored by Senator Annette Taddeo and Representative Cindy Polo was ignored by Republican legislators who blocked it from being heard this session. Expanding Medicaid in Florida would have cover 800,000 people.
- REPUBLICANS TRIED TO UNDERMINE DEMOCRACY: Florida Republicans this session tried to pass a bill that would have made it harder to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, by imposing new restrictions on ballot initiatives like increasing the signatures required. For years, Florida voters have overwhelmingly passed progressive constitutional amendments. HB 7037 (SB 1794) includes provisions shortening how long petition signatures would remain valid and raising the threshold for petitions to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review. Clearing judicial review is a key funding hurdle for citizen initiative backers.
- REPUBLICANS PASSED BILLS TO ENDANGER FLORIDA’S ENVIRONMENT: Republicans passed two very dangerous bills that put corporate interests over Florida’s fragile environment. One bill would prevent local governments from banning the sale of sunscreens containing chemicals that kill coral reefs, and the other bill prohibits counties from adopting a plan for land development regulation after a specified date, giving the DEO the ability to pick and choose where to target its funding.
- REPUBLICANS TRIED TO ERODE WORKERS’ RIGHTS: HB 1, sponsored by Republican Representative James Grant, would have made it harder for workers in the public sector to exercise their constitutional right to stay in a union. The bill was opposed by unions who denounced the bill as funded by special out-of-state interests looking to undermine union representation.
- REPUBLICANS TRIED TO STRIP AUTHORITY FROM COMMISSIONER FRIED: In an effort to remove power from duly elected Commissioner Nikki Fried, Republican legislators tried to move the Office of Energy out of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and into the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, therefore under DeSantis’ power. The move was heavily criticized as a power grab by DeSantis trying to consolidate his power.
- REPUBLICANS ATTACKED FLORIDA’S ECONOMY: While still a weakened version, the Florida Legislature passed an E-Verify bill to fulfill Gov. DeSantis key 2018 campaign promise. The bill, that would require employers to verify new hires’ immigration status, was strongly opposed by business leaders, immigration rights advocates and elected officials saying that it would hurt Florida’s economy. E-Verify would force employers to use an inaccurate employment eligibility system already proven ineffective on the federal level. This would impose a financial burden, particularly on small businesses at a cost that would later be passed on to consumers.
- REPUBLICANS DISMANTLED ABORTION RIGHTS FOR YOUNG WOMEN: The Republican controlled-legislature used this session to dismantle the right of young women to make decisions about their bodies by passing SB 404, a bill that would require parental consent for abortions. The bill has also been criticized as unconstitutional in view of the 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision upholding a right to privacy for young women.
- REPUBLICANS DENIED TAX CREDIT TO WORKING FAMILIES: Senator José Javier Rodríguez and Representative Javier Fernández filed the “Florida Working Families Tax Rebate Program” that would have created a tax rebate program for Floridian working families that received the Earned Income Tax Credit on their filed federal tax return. Republicans failed to hear this important legislation that could have improved tax fairness in the state.